It’s time for Africa’s Major
Cape Town - Ahhh, the Nedbank Golf Challenge - or Africa's Major - the event that signals the start of summer and for many, the race towards a well-deserved December break.
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You can just about picture the scene already, can't you? Blistering heat, lush kikuyu lining perfectly manicured greens, the water fountain off of 17 and the massive glass golf ball trophy presented by golf royalty Gary Player. For those not laced in sunscreen and watching the action live, the camera work is some of the best you'll see all year. It's a good sporting occasion, yes, but it is the dramatic cutaways to the fauna and flora of the Pilanesberg National Park - the lions, the hippos and the vast array of birdlife - which takes the event onto Tour de France scenic levels.
A lot has changed since the event's inception in the '80s where just five pros lined up to battle for the first prize of $500 000. The field has grown steadily, where the no-cut status often attracts some of the world's finest with the riches on offer; Ernie's name is on the trophy multiple times and so is Sergio Garcia's.
Can the same be said for Tiger Woods? No, one of the greats of the game was denied his place in the history of the event by another African favourite Nick Price in a dramatic playoff almost 20 years ago.
Another major change from 'The Million Dollar' as it once was known - although the last time the cheque was that low was in 1999 - is the shift away from African dominance (seven wins in 11 years from 1997 thanks to Els, Price and Trevor Immelman) as a few Englishman, a pair of Scandinavians and even the occasional Aussie started diarising Sun City in their end-of-year plans.
The launch of the Rolex Series this year and the NGC's inclusion in the cash-rich series as well as, its place deep in the Race to Dubai means that once again, the locals will have to battle the best if they want to end the decade-long drought for a home win.
Picking a winner is a little trickier than in the past where first-timers used to struggle in the harsh African sun and thick, thick rough.
Many will look at distance off the tee as a key to the potential winner's strengths with the Gary Player Country Club one of the longest courses on the circuit. However, the warm conditions and altitude do a lot to negate the 'bombers will win' theory and instead, one should look for a player who knows how to get themselves out of trouble.
A good scrambler and a player who can convert with the putter will surely be out late on Sunday afternoon. With this in mind, George Coetzee ticks all the boxes after his recent swing changes and health kick. He's near the top in one-putts, sand saves and scrambling and at 32/1, his name just sticks out as good value. He's South African too, which helps.
Feeling seriously patriotic? Maybe it's time to back the exuberance of youth - Dylan Frittelli was T2 last week and Haydn Porteous started well two weeks in a row - over experience with 42/1 on either Frittelli, Porteous or Brandon Stone cracking the champagne late on Sunday courtesy of the Next Generation BET Boost.